Basketball / NBA

Raptors star Kawhi Leonard goes for career-high 45 in victory over Jazz

AP

Kawhi Leonard was so good Tuesday night, Raptors coach Nick Nurse just wanted to enjoy the show.

Leonard scored a career-high 45 points, Pascal Siakam had a career-best 28 points with 10 rebounds, and Toronto beat the Utah Jazz 122-116.

“That’s good, we all got to witness that live and in person,” Nurse said of Leonard’s outburst. “He was phenomenal. I’ve kind of been waiting for one of these nights where he makes them all.”

Norman Powell scored a season-high 14 points, and the Raptors won their fourth straight at home despite playing without All-Star guard Kyle Lowry (sore back) and center Jonas Valanciunas (dislocated left thumb).

“The way he’s playing right now is really big for our team with a lot of guys out,” Powell said of Leonard.

Leonard shot 16-for-22 overall, missing all three attempts from 3-point range, and went 13 for 17 at the free-throw line. He said he wasn’t aware of his scoring achievement until after the game.

“I try to stay in the moment and keep competing every possession and not worry about myself, just try to get a team win,” Leonard said.

It was the third 40-point game of Leonard’s career, including a 43-point effort against Memphis in Game 4 of the first round in April 2017.

Leonard has scored 20 or more points in a career-best 14 straight games.

Jae Crowder scored a career-high 30 points, Derrick Favors had 21 and Donovan Mitchell scored 19 as the Jazz dropped to 10-12 on the road and 18-20 overall.

“Jae was hot,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “It’s unfortunate that we didn’t capitalize on the night that he had.”

Utah’s Rudy Gobert scored 16 points, and Ricky Rubio had 14.

Leonard made all seven of his field-goal attempts in the third quarter and added five foul shots. His 19 points were the second most in any quarter by a Raptors player this season.

“He scored in the post, he scored in isolations, he scored going to the rim over Rudy,” Snyder said. “Eventually we started hitting him when he walked across half court. The biggest thing was we put him on the line.”

After making two 3-pointers in the first half, the Raptors connected on their first three long-range shots of the third quarter, turning a two-point halftime deficit into a 12-point edge midway through the quarter.

“Those nine quick points really changed the game,” Snyder said. “It gave them a big lift.”

Bucks 121, Pistons 98

In Milwaukee, Brook Lopez had 25 points, Giannis Antetokounmpo threw down a spectacular one-handed dunk and the Bucks cruised past Detroit.

Khris Middleton had 22 points and Eric Bledsoe had 18 for Milwaukee. Antetokounmpo had just 15 points, but his slam over Jon Leuer was the highlight of the night. Antetokounmpo blew past Andre Drummond, jumped and reached his right arm over a leaping Leuer for the slam during the first quarter.

Blake Griffin had 29 points and nine rebounds, and Reggie Jackson scored 19 points the Pistons, who fell to 16-19.

Nuggets 115, Knicks 108

In Denver, Nikola Jokic had 19 points, 14 rebounds and 15 assists, including a late no-look pass to wrap things up, as the Nuggets picked up their ninth straight home victory.

Reserve Malik Beasley added a career-high 23 points for Western Conference-leading Denver, which has now knocked off the Knicks 11 straight times at the Pepsi Center. It was far from easy, though, with the Nuggets needing a big 3-pointer from Jokic with 2:55 remaining to finally gain some separation.

Struggling New York has lost eight in a row.

Trail Blazers 113, Kings 108 (OT)

In Sacramento, Damian Lillard shook off a sluggish night shooting to score five of his 25 points in overtime, and Portland rallied after blowing a 14-point halftime lead.

Jusuf Nurkic had 24 points and a career-high 23 rebounds to help the Trail Blazers to their fourth straight win over the Kings.